by Fr. James C. Meena
from The Word, April 1978
I want to start an argument. However, if we are going to argue we must do so on my terms only. I must write both sides of the script. Not only must I know what I want to say but you must respond precisely the way I expect you to. Does that sound unreasonable? Of course it does. Yet there are many people who insist that they write both sides of the dialogue, and who are upset when others won’t follow their script.
Some people really think they have the right to decide how others should respond to them. A wise person once said that your feelings are hurt not because of what people say but because of what you hear. That makes a lot of sense to me. If we are in a disturbed frame of mind and emotionally upset, we hear things that other people really did not say. They may have said the words, but their intent was very different from the meaning which we received. We must be extremely careful that we not try to write both sides of the dialogue. We cannot control the scripts of life. Life’s scenario can be filled with love or with bitterness, with forgiveness or with grudge bearing.
Jesus said, “If your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and the Pharisees you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.” (St. Matthew 5:20) He also said, “The kingdom of God is among you.” (St. Luke 17:21) It’s not beyond the clouds, it is among you. You can be together in this group, in the same congregation and some of you are already in the kingdom and some of you are not because there are those among you whose virtue goes no deeper than the virtue of the scribes and the Pharisees.
“If you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift at the altar and go and make peace with your brother, then come back and make your offering.” (St. Matthew 5:23)
When someone offends us we have the responsibility to go to them with love and say, “Dear friend, you hurt my feelings. Maybe I did not hear what you were saying, but this is what I heard and I would like to know what you meant. If you meant to be offensive you made your point. If, on the other hand, I heard something that you didn’t say I would like to know that too but I don’t want this feeling to exist between us. What did you say? What did you mean? What was your intention?”
“Come to terms with your opponent in good time while you are still on your way to the court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown in prison.” (Matthew 5:25) Be a peacemaker, not a troublemaker. In case somebody offends us what is our first reaction? I am going to get that sucker! From the time we are children we hear, “I’ll fix you.” “All right on you.” “I am going to get you.” We have grown up with that mentality of getting even. Somebody does something wrong, punish him! About this unreasonable desire to get even, Jesus said, “You heard it said in the Old Testament, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but I say to you, offer the wicked man no resistance. On the contrary, if anyone hits you on the right cheek offer to him the other one as well. If a man takes you to the law and would have your tunic let him have your cloak as well, and if someone orders you to go one mile, go two miles with him.” (Matthew 5:38-43) That is pretty profound!
Jesus indicated that we cannot write both sides of the script. Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, if my brother offends me, how many times am I supposed to forgive him? Seven times?” Peter wanted a limit. Jesus made it abundantly clear. “I say forgive him not seven times but seventy times seven.” (St. Matthew 18:21-22) If you can’t accept that message my beloved, you will always be in pain and agony, agitated or angry at what you think you heard, but was not said.
I know there are a lot of offensive people in the world and I am not trying to cover them up. There are some people whose personalities clash, but there is no place in the scripture that makes allowances for that. If Jesus said forgive and love your enemies, then certainly he expects us to forgive and love those with whom we have personality clashes. Once we come to the understanding and realization that we cannot write the scenario for anyone else with whom we come in contact, that we are responsible for our own dialogue and that we must speak with and reflect a Christian attitude, we can thank God because before our Lord and Master we are accountable not for what others said to us, but only for ourselves and how we responded to others. So sharpen your mind as you are script-writing and do not try to manage both sides of the dialogue.
Protection of the Theotokos - October 1
Most holy Mother of God, today we Orthodox joyfully celebrate thy coming among us. As we gaze at thy icon we cry with compunction: Shelter us under thy protection, deliver us from evil, and pray thy Son Christ our God to save our souls.
Kontakion of the Protection, Tone 3
Today the Virgin is standing before us in the Church praying for us with the choirs of Saints. Angels worship with Hierarchs, Apostles rejoice with Prophets, for the Mother of God intercedes with the Eternal God for us.